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Review: Gainward GeForce GTX 780 Phantom GLH

by Tarinder Sandhu on 6 September 2013, 15:00

Tags: Gainward, NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA)

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Goes like the clappers

More of a whisper than a rumour, the grapevine reckons that AMD will be launching its next-generation Radeon GPUs before the year is out. Nvidia is perhaps mindful of this and has brought its own 7-series graphics chips to market in the preceding three months.

The headline Titan GPU's exotic performance can be matched by factory-overclocked GeForce GTX 780s, and we've looked at many of them over the summer. Priced from £500, and premium Titan aside, performance is about as handsome as you're going to see from single-GPU Nvidia cards for a while.

One name missing from our roster of reviews is Gainward. Synonymous with overclocking for a long time - remember Golden Sample cards from a decade ago? - the German outfit is now firmly back in the enthusiast space.

Gainward's signature range of cards is known as the Phantom series. Excluding the Titan, which is very much a reference card, the top-of-the-range offering is the GTX 780 Phantom version. Though looking exactly the same from the outside, Gainward markets two Phantom GTX 780s - one is clocked in at 902MHz core and 6,008MHz memory and the other, the Goes Like Hell (GLH), at a rather more impressive 980MHz (1,033MHz Boost) and 6,200MHz RAM.

And here is GTX 780 Phantom GLH 3GB. You'd be forgiven for momentarily thinking that Gainward has achieved the impossible and constructed a passively-cooled design. That's obviously not the case, as a trio of fans are hidden under the 10.5in-wide heatsink.

See, the removeable fans are on what is usually considered the 'wrong' side for graphics-card cooling. The 80mm trio are thumbscrewed into the plastic shroud, connected via a custom four-pin header, and suspended over the GPU. Removing them takes but a tick and enables easy maintenance. A direct consequence of the mounting mechanism is that the fans pull air back through to the heatsink rather than blow down on the GPU. Attached to the GPU by a copper baseplate, five thick heatpipes are evenly spread through the glut of horizontal aluminium fans.

The need for a gap between fans and GPU means the card takes up 2.5 expansion slots, thus blocking-off the two adjacent slots on a motherboard; do bear this in mind if chassis room is at a premium. Gainward has gone all custom with the cooling but leaves the power-delivery (8+6-pin) and multi-GPU connections reference. We appreciate Gainward's little touches such as full-length heatsinks over the hot-running components and the 3GB of GDDR5 RAM.

Gainward secures the weighty cooler by using a frame mounted on the PCB, so there's no need to have esoteric cooling on the back. Closer examination of the PCB reveals that it, too, like the cooler, is custom.

Coming back to familiar ground, Gainward decides, quite rightly, that Nvidia's four display outputs are the best combination for a high-end card. Up to four screens can be run at one time though we suspect most will use them for multi-monitor 2D work.

Whether the Gainward-infused extras are worth it depends on how price is viewed. The card currently retails for £570, or £70 more than the cheapest GTX 780s, though it's certainly not the most expensive GPU of its ilk. Backed by a two-year warranty, let's now see if it can nip at the heels of GTX Titan.